As humans, we have a natural fear of fire. Anyone who has burnt himself or herself will instinctively flinch if they get too close to dangerous heat – and with good reason. Burns are one of those traumas where everyone, medical staff included, has an emotional response. Not only is there the pain, both physical as well as mental and emotional to cope with, but there is also the reality of long term hospital treatment and the inevitability of scarring.
Over the past couple of decades, burns management has come into it’s own as a speciality with excellent protocols to fast track severe cases, and wound management aimed at reducing infection and hopefully reducing the scarring too. Technology has been introduced with the aim of restoring skin coverage as quickly as possible, with people such as Prof Fiona Woods here in Perth WA, being an internationally regarded expert in the area of “Spray on Skin”.
Now workers at John Hopkins in America have developed an engineered Hydrogel that could form the basis of an inexpensive burn wound treatment that appears to work better than currently available dressings or clinical therapies. Using mouse studies, they have shown that the jelly like material appeared to regenerate healthy, scar free tissue, which John Harmon, a professor of surgery at John Hopkins described as “Absolutely remarkable. We got complete skin regeneration, which never happens in typical burn wound treatment.”
The Hydrogel was developed with a team of engineers and promotes the early development of new blood vessels in the area under treatment: this leads to regeneration of the more complex structures found in skin such as hair follicles and the exocrine glands that produce oil on the skin.
Although a patent is protecting the gel, the researchers admit to not fully understanding how the gel works. One theory goes that the gel attracts bone stem cells that take up residence in the matrix and morph into the cells required to produce healthy skin. As there are no drugs or growth factors within the Hydrogel, it is possible that it could be classified as a “Device” and thereby get into the healthcare system quicker than if it had to undergo extensive pharmaceutical trials.
Lets hope what’s good for mice is good for humans too!